Art is not just a one-time experience. To really understand it, one needs to return to it and study it or contemplate it. My first time visiting TURF: IDADA Art Pavilion was rewarding in itself but I knew it needed a second visit. My first visit delighted me with the ambitious nature of the project (showcasing Indiana arts and artists) and allowed me to be amazed with my initial experience. I left with favorites. I knew my experience was incomplete so I went back where I gained a deeper appreciation for the installations I enjoyed and those I didn’t understand. TURF: IDADA Art Pavilion is open through February 5th—just two more days! (Three if you count today.) It is part of the Super Bowl XLVI event and is worth taking time to visit.
A cascade of monitors featuring waterfalls flows down the wall, through the rough terrain of black umbrellas, and under a bridge—the very bridge I cross over to move to the next installation. As one of the first installations, it crosses me over from the mundane world outside and takes me into the world of art and metaphor.
A snake or dragon slithers across a screen, each scale alive with smaller videos of a night market. I pause to watch it undulate up and down the screen. Time stops for me as I stand mesmerized by its hypnotic movement.
I didn’t understand this installation the first time through. I was too focused on the rusted cans and the beauty inherent in their abandoned character. Because of this, I didn’t see the complete installation. This second time through, I stood back and all at once I noticed the odd juxtaposing of progress and the debris it leaves behind.
I once lived in a house with a hole in the ceiling. The bathroom tub sat precariously over this hole. I look at the fridge, broken through the ceiling and crashed into the floor, and see a bathtub and I think, That could be me under there.
I sit in a chair and contemplate the swirls on the floor canvas. Each swirl chalked in with a charred bone. Each swirl a microcosmic similitude of the macrocosmic heavens.
A diorama of a fox contemplating drums and a movie of a man turning to nature; one a still life, unable to fulfill the suggested idea, the other real life, quite capable of becoming what it suggests.
The sanctuary of an outhouse amidst a cacophany of sayings and slogans and surrounded by ravens. Nevermore
Vinyl pours abundantly out of a spout, bubbling over the ground and splashing across the walls. I long to be immersed in that liquid. I long to stack vinyl three or four deep on the post in the center of the turntable and listen to, not just the music, but the mechanical sound of the arm settling into the grooves, of the arm retracting when done. And I even miss the scratching sound as the needle jumps across the vinyl when I am careless.
I enjoyed the second time through as much as the first time through. I was wowed the first time but the second time I began to understand a deeper meaning each artist included in their installation—whether they intended that meaning or not. As a viewer, I bring my own background to the installations and add my own meaning to it. That’s the nature of art. It’s a dialogue; a dialogue between the artist, the art, and the viewer. And that is why I like to go back, to return and continue the dialogue.
The city of Indianapolis is hosting the Super Bowl this year. They took a bold initiative and included the arts as part of the celebration, something no other Super Bowl has done. Right now in downtown Indianapolis in the Old Indianapolis City Hall on Alabama Street, Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association (IDADA) presents TURF: IDADA Art Pavilion.
I took my friend, Kathryn, with me. She loves art and art installations so I knew she would appreciate this. She hadn’t heard of it and was a little skeptical. All that changed when we saw the first installation.
I don’t read artist’s statements anymore. Instead, I walk into an exhibit or look at a painting and I bring my own background and my own feelings and understandings to the artwork and if it touches me or says something to me then I am content. I say this because I will be expressing my thoughts and feelings and opinions on the following installations. They may or may not reflect the intention of the artist.
Artist: C. Thomas Lewis Better or Worse?
Eyes, strange and disturbing, peered out over top of me. Mostly unblinking, very human, very inhuman. They saw but didn’t see. Emotionless. All the same but each different.
My feelings in the space intrigued me, however, Kathryn was intrigued with the mechanics. How did he project the eyes perfectly onto the cutouts? Is that a shadow on the wall behind them or is it painted? It’s painted! No, it’s a shadow! Look. Across the way she finds the audio and presses her ears against the wall to hear someone whisper, “Better or Worse?” On the disks in the corner opposite the eyes, the E of the eye chart was projected in various levels of focus. “Better or Worse?”
I looked up at the disks at the moment “Orange” was projected onto one of them. Then it changed to “Purple”. In that instance I understood. This installation was about perception. I saw the color purple but read the word “orange.” What did that do to me? Did it throw me off kilter? Yes, it did. I had just read a chapter in a book about this very thing. Reading the word purple and seeing it bathed in purple engages the automatic nervous system and we think nothing about it. But reading the word purple bathed in orange is jarring and makes us stop and take notice. Is it purple or is it orange? It is this juxtaposition of two different systems that allows us to question our perception. Better or worse?
Artist: Anila Quayyum Agha My Forked Tongue
Language hangs all around me. Strings of letters that, if strung carefully, create words and words create sounds and sounds create language. I was in a surreal world of streaming 1′s and 0′s only, instead of 1′s they were letters, and instead of 0′s they were scripts of other cultures. I felt all of civilization wash over me. I recognized shadow shapes on the wall, portending the future of new words and new languages or revealing the ancient past of languages lost.
This was my favorite exhibit. It told me so much with so little.
Artist: Jeff Martin Switch v2.0
Delightful! Fun! Intriguing! Easily understood and fun to play with. Two walls bearing light-sensitive night lights light up as you walk/run/jump/skip by. Extend your arm, and your arm-shadow lights up. I had too much fun playing with this installation and creating light shadows of myself to think of it as being something deep and philosophical. But that’s ok. I’m sure I could come up with something, but, nah! Let this one be just a lot of fun.
Artist: Lesley Baker Bull In A China Shop
At first, I wasn’t interested. By this time I had seen many installations with technology applied to them that were new and impressive. So to see a wooden bull looking at what appeared to be white flowers on the ground really didn’t grab my attention. My first thought was of Ferdinand the Bull and his flowers.
But Kathryn and I circled around and were surprised to see he was anatomically gifted. Then Kathryn read the title of the installation, “Bull in a China Shop,” and all of a sudden my experience with this installation changed. I backed up and looked at this huge bull in this room. And instead of thinking this enormous beast was out of its element, large and clumsy and destroying precious china, I thought, “Man, this bull is rather ballsy to be in a china shop in the first place.” I have a new appreciation for the idiom, “You’re like a bull in a china shop.” The next time I hear that, I’ll say, “Why, thanks!”
Artist: Mike Lyons A Rapid Validation
I admit, when I first saw this I wanted to run screaming. But that’s because I hate chaos. I hate clutter. It makes me nervous. I need things in some semblance of order or organization. Ten years ago you would have never heard me say that, but lately I’m almost compulsive about it.
Kathryn didn’t like it either but for different reasons. She didn’t like the three TVs with animated blobs on them, especially the last one that looked like a Hershey’s Kiss getting covered with pustules and boils, like a disease. She hated it. However, for me those three TVs kept me sane. When Kathryn said she’d get rid of them, my imagination removed them and the whole chaotic mess inside started to ooze out towards me. I saw it coming, building upon itself because we all know that chaos is the true nature of things and that organization takes thought and control. That…mess…inched towards me like the beginning of an avalanche until I pulled myself together and mentally shoved the three TVs back in place. They may show diseased globs but that dis-ease is what keeps chaos in check. Oddly enough, I may not have liked this installation but it has made me think the most and that is why I think it works.
Artist: Holly Streekstra Step on This Side of the Curtain
Entering through a black curtain into a dark room with a flickering overhead globe chandelier. Between the fritzing on and off of the globes a surreal parlor emerges. Whispers scurry across the walls and I realize I’m in the middle of a seance or some such otherworldly experience.
The globe chandelier lights up and I see into the room weirdly. I see a telescope and a chalkboard on a table. Are they for seeing into the realms of the dead? for automatic writing? And is that a mirror over the fireplace? I look into it but see only the chandelier reflected back. I do not exist. The room goes dark again and the globes flicker. Such a tranquil room; such macabre wonder.
There were other installations worth noting. One that held special significance for me was of a refrigerator that had fallen through the open floor above and had crashed through the main floor. I walked into that installation and exclaimed, “That’s my tub! Only it’s a fridge!” (I once lived in a house where the upstairs bathroom floor had crumbled and exposed the tub to the living room below…I was sure the tub would fall through any day.) Over all, there are 22 installations—enough to satisfy almost everyone.
I am glad that Indianapolis takes great pride in their artist community. I am glad they are including the arts as part of the Super Bowl experience. Way to go, Indy!
TURF: IDADA Art Pavilion is opened Tues-Sun from 10:00am – 7:00 pm. It’s free and it’s worth the time and parking to see it.
(I am not in any way connected to IDADA. I just loved the exhibit and had to write about it.)